My good friends and mentors in ministry, Bishop Gregory and Dr. Gayla Holley, recently had a horrible loss in their family. They put their precious little dog Missy, a yorkie terrier, outside in their yard and a turkey vulture took her. They were shocked and devastated at what had happened. When Gayla told me about it, I immediately had tears in my eyes and my hand went to my throat, as I could imagine the pain my friends are going through. Being a dog lover and knowing that dogs aren’t pets for long, they become a part of your family, I understood the grief they must be feeling.
They both felt badly about Missy. They shed some tears, they tried to figure out why this would happen. It was really a sad time. You see, Missy first belonged to a family who just didn’t have time for her. Her family knew they needed to find a good home for her and along came the Holleys. With them, Missy traveled the country in their RV, she slept in pajamas and got special treats. She watched the news on their laps. She got table scraps when her mom wasn’t looking. She even liked cuddling up in bed with them. She lived the life of luxury for a dog.
What happened next didn’t surprise me at all. They rescued another dog within a week. A Maltese who was in desperate need of a groomer. He is now living the life! Too soon you might say? Not when your life is about love.
See, there is an important lesson here about love and loss. In our grief we can decide to put up a wall and say to ourselves that we will never love again. We can decide that the loss is just too great and our hearts are much too broken to ever take another chance. We can live in the good ‘ol days when they were with us. In fact, the natural response to death is to nurse grief. To speak statements that shut love out.
It is a very powerful statement to remain open to love and shut out grief. Yes, grief is necessary and needed but love is even more so. In this case they determined that there were a lot of dogs that needed love more than they needed grief. Missy isn’t an afterthought. She is missed, she is loved still, and she isn’t replaced. This new life with a new dog will be a process just as anything in life is. No two dogs are the same. In fact, her memory is such a good one that they opened their lives up to even more love. That is a testimony to Missy’s life if ever there was one.
Sometimes in ministry you learn deep lessons not in what people say to you but in how their life is lived out before you.